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Six Features of Pure Bhakti

Next Rūpa Gosvāmī gives six unique features of pure devotional service.

1. Pure devotional service brings immediate relief from all kinds of material distress.

2. Pure devotional service is the beginning of all auspiciousness.

3. Pure devotional service automatically puts one in transcendental pleasure.

4. Pure devotional service is rarely achieved.

5. Those in pure devotional service deride even the conception of liberation.

6. Pure devotional service is the only means to attract Kṛṣṇa. Kṛṣṇa is all-attractive, but pure devotional service attracts even Him. This means that pure devotional service is even transcendentally stronger than Kṛṣṇa Himself, because it is Kṛṣṇa’s internal potency.

1. Kṛṣṇa Consciousness Brings Relief from All Material Distress

In the Bhagavad-gītā, the Lord says that one should surrender unto Him, giving up all other engagements. The Lord also gives His word there that He will protect surrendered souls from the reactions of all sinful activities. Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī says that the distresses from sinful activities are due both to the sins themselves and to sins committed in our past lives. Generally, one commits sinful activities due to ignorance. But ignorance is no excuse for evading the reaction – distresses. Sinful activities are of two kinds: those which are mature and those which are not mature. The sinful activities for which we are suffering at the present moment are called mature. The many sinful activities stored within us for which we have not yet suffered are considered immature. For example, a man may have committed criminal acts but not yet been arrested for them. Now, as soon as he is detected, arrest is awaiting him. Similarly, for some of our sinful activities we are awaiting distresses in the future, and for others, which are mature, we are suffering at the present moment.

In this way there is a chain of sinful activities and their concomitant distresses, and the conditioned soul is suffering life after life due to these sins. He is suffering in the present life the results of sinful activities from his past life, and he is meanwhile creating further sufferings for his future life. Mature sinful activities are exhibited if one is suffering from some chronic disease, if one is suffering from some legal implication, if one is born in a low and degraded family, or if one is uneducated or very ugly.

There are many results of past sinful activities for which we are suffering at the present moment, and we may be suffering in the future due to our present sinful activities. But all of these reactions to sinful deeds can immediately be stopped if we take to Kṛṣṇa consciousness. As evidence for this, Rūpa Gosvāmī quotes a verse from the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (11.14.19). This verse is in connection with Lord Kṛṣṇa’s instruction to Uddhava, where He says, “My dear Uddhava, devotional service unto Me is just like a blazing fire that can burn into ashes unlimited fuel supplied to it.” The purport is that as the blazing fire can burn any amount of fuel to ashes, so devotional service to the Lord in Kṛṣṇa consciousness can burn up all the fuel of sinful activities. For example, in the Gītā Arjuna thought that fighting was a sinful activity, but Kṛṣṇa engaged him on the battlefield under His order, and so the fighting became devotional service. Therefore, Arjuna was not subjected to any sinful reaction.

Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī quotes a verse from the Third Canto of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (3.33.6), in which Devahūti addresses her son, Kapiladeva, an incarnation of Kṛṣṇa who taught a type of yoga called sāṅkhya, and says, “My dear Lord, there are nine different kinds of devotional service, beginning from hearing and chanting. Anyone who hears about Your pastimes, who chants about Your glories, who offers You obeisances, who thinks of You and, in this way, executes any of the nine kinds of devotional service – even if he is born in a family of dog-eaters [the lowest grade of mankind] – becomes immediately qualified to perform sacrifices.” As such, how is it possible that anyone actually engaged in devotional service in full Kṛṣṇa consciousness has not become purified? It is not possible. One who is engaged in Kṛṣṇa consciousness and devotional service has without doubt become freed from all contaminations of material sinful activities. Devotional service therefore has the power to actually nullify all kinds of reactions to sinful deeds. A devotee is nevertheless always alert not to commit any sinful activities; this is his specific qualification as a devotee. Thus the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam states that by performing devotional service a person who was born even in a family of dog-eaters may become eligible to take part in the performance of the ritualistic ceremonies recommended in the Vedas. It is implicit in this statement that a person born into a family of dog-eaters is generally not fit for performing yajña, or sacrifice. The priestly caste in charge of performing these ritualistic ceremonies recommended in the Vedas is called the brāhmaṇa order. Unless one is a brāhmaṇa, he cannot perform these ceremonies.

A person is born in a brāhmaṇa family or in a family of dog-eaters due to his past activities. If a person is born in a family of dog-eaters it means that his past activities were all sinful. But if even such a person takes to the path of devotional service and begins to chant the holy names of the Lord – Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare – he is at once fit to perform the ritualistic ceremonies. This means that his sinful reactions have immediately become neutralized.

It is stated in the Padma Purāṇa that there are four kinds of effects due to sinful activities, which are listed as follows: (1) the effect which is not yet fructified, (2) the effect which is lying as seed, (3) the effect which is already mature, and (4) the effect which is almost mature. It is also stated that all these four effects become immediately vanquished for those who surrender unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Viṣṇu, and become engaged in His devotional service in full Kṛṣṇa consciousness.

Those effects described as “almost mature” refer to the distress from which one is suffering at present, and the effects “lying as seed” are in the core of the heart, where there is a certain stock of sinful desires, which are like seeds. The Sanskrit word kūṭam means that they are almost ready to produce the seed, or the effect of the seed. “An immature effect” refers to the case where the seedling has not begun. From this statement of Padma Purāṇa it is understood that material contamination is very subtle. Its beginning, its fruition and results, and how one suffers such results in the form of distress, are part of a great chain. When one catches some disease, it is often very difficult to ascertain the cause of the disease, where it originated, and how it is maturing. The suffering of a disease, however, does not appear all of a sudden. It actually takes time. And as in the medical field, for precaution’s sake, the doctor injects a vaccination to prevent the growing of contamination, the practical injection to stop all the fructifications of the seeds of our sinful activities is simply engagement in Kṛṣṇa consciousness.

Ajāmila, a Sinner Saved

In this connection, Śukadeva Gosvāmī speaks in the Sixth Canto of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (6.2.17) about the story of Ajāmila, who began life as a fine and dutiful brāhmaṇa but who in his young manhood became wholly corrupted by a prostitute. At the end of his wicked life, just by calling the name “Nārāyaṇa [Kṛṣṇa],” he was saved despite so much sin. Śukadeva points out that austerity, charity, and the performance of ritualistic ceremonies for counteracting sinful activities are recommended processes, but that by performing them one cannot remove the sinful desire-seed from the heart, as was the case with Ajāmila in his youth. This sinful desire-seed can be removed only by achieving Kṛṣṇa consciousness. And this can be accomplished very easily by chanting the mahā-mantra, or Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra, as recommended by Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. In other words, unless one adopts the path of devotional service, one cannot be one-hundred-percent clean from all sinful reactions.

By performing Vedic ritualistic activities, by giving money in charity, and by undergoing austerity one can temporarily become free from the reactions of sinful activities, but at the next moment one must again become engaged in sinful activities. For example, a person suffering from venereal disease on account of excessive indulgence in sex life has to undergo some severe pain in medical treatment, and he is then cured for the time being. But because he has not been able to remove the sex desire from his heart, he must again indulge in the same thing and become a victim of the same disease. So medical treatment may give temporary relief from the distress of such venereal disease, but unless one is trained to understand that sex life is abominable, it is impossible to be saved from such repeated distress. Similarly, the ritualistic performances, charity, and austerity that are recommended in the Vedas may temporarily stop one from acting in sinful ways, but as long as the heart is not clear, one will have to repeat sinful activities again and again.

Another example given in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam concerns the elephant who enters a lake and takes a bath very seriously, cleansing his body thoroughly. Then as soon as he comes onto the shore he again takes some dust from the earth and throws it over his body. Similarly, a person who is not trained in Kṛṣṇa consciousness cannot become completely free from the desire for sinful activities. Neither the meditative yoga process nor philosophical speculations nor fruitive activities can save one from the seeds of sinful desires. Only by being engaged in devotional service can this be done.

There is another evidence in the Fourth Canto of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (4.22.39), wherein Sanat-kumāra says, “My dear king, the false ego of a human being is so strong that it keeps him in material existence as if tied up by a strong rope. Only the devotees can cut off the knot of this strong rope very easily, by engaging themselves in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Others, who are not in Kṛṣṇa consciousness but are trying to become great mystics or great ritual performers, cannot advance like the devotees. Therefore, it is the duty of everyone to engage himself in the activities of Kṛṣṇa consciousness in order to be freed from the tight knot of false ego and engagement in material activities.”

This tight knot of false ego is due to ignorance. As long as one is ignorant about his identity, he is sure to act wrongly and thereby become entangled in material contamination. This ignorance of factual knowledge can also be dissipated by Kṛṣṇa consciousness, as is confirmed in the Padma Purāṇa as follows: “Pure devotional service in Kṛṣṇa consciousness is the highest enlightenment, and when such enlightenment is there, it is just like a blazing forest fire, killing all the inauspicious snakes of desire.” The example is being given in this connection that when there is a forest fire the extensive blazing automatically kills all the snakes in the forest. There are many, many snakes on the ground of the forest, and when a fire takes place, it burns the dried foliage, and the snakes are immediately attacked. Animals who have four legs can flee from the fire or can at least try to flee, but the snakes are immediately killed. Similarly, the blazing fire of Kṛṣṇa consciousness is so strong that the snakes of ignorance are immediately killed.

Kṛṣṇa’s Promise

Everyone in the material world is full of anxieties. That is the nature of material existence. One after another, problems come. So if someone would promise us, “Just depend on me; I will solve all your problems,” how much relief we would feel! Just imagine! Of course, we may not believe it. If some ordinary human being says to us, “Do not worry; I will take charge of all your affairs,” we may doubt his ability to do so because we know his limitations. But when Kṛṣṇa says, “I will take charge of you,” we should have full faith in His words and feel so much relief. Kṛṣṇa is not an ordinary man – He is the all-powerful Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is Yogeśvara, the master of all mystic power, and He is the Absolute Truth. Therefore, when He promises in the Bhagavad-gītā, “Give up all other attempts to solve your problems and just surrender to Me. I will take charge of you and nullify all your sinful reactions,” we should feel assured that we will be delivered from the reactions of all our sinful activities.

2. Kṛṣṇa Consciousness is All-Auspicious

Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī has given a definition of auspiciousness. He says that actual auspiciousness means welfare activities for all the people of the world. At the present moment groups of people are engaged in welfare activities in terms of society, community, or nation. There is even an attempt in the form of the United Nations for world-help activity. But due to the shortcomings of limited national activities, such a general mass welfare program for the whole world is not practically possible. The Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement, however, is so nice that it can render the highest benefit to the entire human race. Everyone can be attracted by this movement, and everyone can feel the result. Therefore, Rūpa Gosvāmī and other learned scholars agree that a broad propaganda program for the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement of devotional service all over the world is the highest humanitarian welfare activity.

The End of All Suffering

We suffer because of our sinful activities, and we enjoy because of our pious activities. But in this material world, whether we enjoy or suffer, the common factor is suffering. Suppose in my next life I get a good birth due to my pious activities in this life – I may have sufficient wealth, a good education, and physical beauty. But even if I’m born into the family of a rich man, the sufferings of taking birth will be the same as those of a child born into a poor family. The sufferings of taking birth are equal for the poor and the rich. Similarly, when there is some disease – a fever, for example – it is not less painful for the rich man than for the poor man. The pain is the same. Therefore, as long as there is material existence, this suffering and enjoyment will remain on the same level: ultimately painful. But if we take to Kṛṣṇa consciousness, Kṛṣṇa assures us, ahaṁ tvāṁ sarva-pāpebhyo mokṣayiṣyāmi: “I will free you from all sins and all suffering.” That is real auspiciousness.

When Kṛṣṇa takes charge of us, He gradually educates us from within and without so that we may go back home, back to Godhead. From the material point of view it is auspicious to achieve wealth, education, beauty, high parentage, and so on, but all these are adulterated with so many sufferings. Therefore, they are not actually auspicious. Real auspiciousness is to go back home, back to Godhead, for an eternal life of bliss and knowledge. And that can be achieved only by engagement in pure devotional service to Lord Kṛṣṇa, without any material motive. So engaging in pure devotional service is the beginning of all auspiciousness. And to achieve that we have to follow the rules and regulations, chant the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra daily, and engage always in the service of the Lord.

3. Kṛṣṇa Consciousness Produces Supreme Happiness

Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī has analyzed the different sources of happiness. He has divided happiness into three categories, which are (1) happiness derived from material enjoyment, (2) happiness derived by identifying oneself with the Supreme Brahman, and (3) happiness derived from Kṛṣṇa consciousness.

In the tantra-śāstra Lord Śiva speaks to his wife, Satī, in this way: “My dear wife, a person who has surrendered himself at the lotus feet of Govinda and who has thus developed pure Kṛṣṇa consciousness can be very easily awarded all the perfections desired by the impersonalists; and beyond this, he can enjoy the happiness achieved by the pure devotees.”

Happiness derived from pure devotional service is the highest because it is eternal, whereas the happiness derived from material perfection or from understanding oneself to be Brahman is inferior because it is temporary. There is no preventing one’s falling down from material happiness, and there is even every chance of falling down from the spiritual happiness derived out of identifying oneself with the impersonal Brahman.

It has been seen that great Māyāvādī sannyāsīs – very highly educated and almost realized souls – may sometimes take to political activities or to social welfare activities. The reason is that they actually do not derive any ultimate transcendental happiness in the impersonal understanding and therefore must come down to the material platform and take to such mundane affairs. There are many instances, especially in India, where these Māyāvādī sannyāsīs descend to the material platform again. But a person who is fully in Kṛṣṇa consciousness will never return to any sort of material platform. However alluring and attractive they may be, he always knows that no material welfare activities can compare to the spiritual activity of Kṛṣṇa consciousness.

Happiness from Nondevotional Yoga is Inferior

The mystic perfections achieved by actually successful yogis are eight in number. Aṇimā-siddhi refers to the power by which one can become so small that he can enter into a stone. But modern scientific improvements also enable us to enter into stone, because they provide for excavating so many subways, penetrating the hills, etc. So aṇimā-siddhi, the mystic perfection of trying to enter into stone, has also been achieved by material science. Similarly, all of the yoga-siddhis, or perfections, are material arts. For example, in one yoga-siddhi there is development of the power to become so light that one can float in the air or on water. That has also been achieved by modern science. It has enabled us to fly in the air, float on the surface of the water, and travel under the water.

Of course, in the categories of mystic perfection there are certain processes that the material scientists have not yet been able to develop. For instance, a mystic yogi can enter into the sun planet simply by using the rays of the sunshine. This perfection is called laghimā. Similarly, a yogi can touch the moon with his finger. Though the modern astronauts go to the moon with the help of spaceships, they undergo many difficulties, whereas a person with mystic perfection can extend his hand and touch the moon with his finger. This siddhi is called prāpti, or acquisition. With this prāpti-siddhi, not only can the perfect mystic yogi touch the moon planet, but he can extend his hand anywhere and take whatever he likes. He may be sitting thousands of miles away from a certain place, and if he likes he can take fruit from a garden there. This is prāpti-siddhi.

The modern scientists have manufactured nuclear weapons with which they can destroy an insignificant part of this planet, but by the yoga-siddhi known as īśitā one can create and destroy an entire planet simply at will. Another perfection is called vaśitā, and by this perfection one can bring anyone under his control. This is a kind of hypnotism that is almost irresistible. Sometimes it is found that a yogi who may have attained a little perfection in this vaśitā mystic power comes out among the people and speaks all sorts of nonsense, controls their minds, exploits them, takes their money, and then goes away.

There is another mystic perfection, which is known as prākāmya (magic). By this prākāmya power one can achieve anything he likes. For example, one can make water enter into his eye and then again come out from within the eye. Simply by his will he can perform such wonderful activities.

The highest perfection of mystic power is called kāmāvasāyitā. This is also magic, but whereas the prākāmya power acts to create wonderful effects within the scope of nature, kāmāvasāyitā permits one to contradict nature – in other words, to do the impossible. Of course, one can derive great amounts of temporary happiness by achieving such yogic materialistic perfections.

Material Happiness: Temporary at Best

Foolishly, people who are enamored of the glitter of modern materialistic advancement are thinking that the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is for less intelligent men. “I am better off being busy with my material comforts – maintaining a nice apartment, family, and sex life.” These people do not know that at any moment they can be kicked out of their material situation. Due to ignorance, they do not know that real life is eternal. The temporary comforts of the body are not the goal of life, and it is due only to darkest ignorance that people become enamored of the glimmering advancement of material comforts. Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura has therefore said that the advancement of material knowledge renders a person more foolish, because it causes one to forget his real identity by its glitter. This is doom for him, because this human form of life is meant for getting out of material contamination. By the advancement of material knowledge, people are becoming more and more entangled in material existence. They have no hope of being liberated from this catastrophe.

Rejecting the Dream of Material Happiness

We are enamored by the glitter of this material world just as moths are attracted by a fire. Moths enter with great speed into the fire, without knowing that they are going to die. Their forceful entrance into the fire means sure death. Similarly, modern science has created some so-called comforts of life for temporary enjoyment, but at the same time we take the risk of so many dangerous conditions. As the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam says, padaṁ padaṁ yad vipadām: In this world there is danger at every step.

Our attempts to mitigate discomfort are like the attempts of a laborer to get some relief when carrying a heavy burden. When he is too uncomfortable, he shifts the burden from his head to his shoulder. But that does not eliminate the difficulty of carrying the burden. Similarly, we are trying to get material comforts by producing so many scientific inventions, but they do not actually provide happiness. We are simply changing the position of our burden. For instance, in America the people have to accept so much danger just to drive around in their motorcars. They may try to increase their happiness by improving transportation, but they are just shifting the burden around. They therefore create more and more problems. They have so many cars that they have to construct more roads and highways, one on top of another. Still they experience traffic congestion, accidents, pollution, and discomfort. This is a vain endeavor. The scientists think they are solving the problems of life, but the discomforts of life are still there. And the scientists must fail, because this material world is by nature full of discomfort, as Kṛṣṇa Himself confirms in the Bhagavad-gītā: duḥkhālayam aśāśvatam. How, then, can you make it a happy place?

We may dream of something dangerous, that a tiger or snake is coming, and then we want to change to another dream. Similarly, our attempt to become happy in this material world by manufacturing some artificial means of happiness is simply a useless dream. Real happiness is to take shelter of the lotus feet of Kṛṣṇa.

A Pure Devotee Wants Nothing But Bhakti

In the Hari-bhakti-sudhodaya it is stated that Prahlāda Mahārāja, a great devotee of the Lord, prayed to Nṛsiṁhadeva (the half-lion, half-man incarnation) as follows: “My dear Lord, I repeatedly pray unto Your lotus feet that I may simply be stronger in devotional service. I simply pray that my Kṛṣṇa consciousness may be more strong and steady, because happiness derived from Kṛṣṇa consciousness and devotional service is so powerful that with it one can have all the other perfections of religiousness, economic development, sense gratification, and even the attainment of liberation from material existence.”

Actually, a pure devotee does not aspire after any of these perfections, because the happiness derived from devotional service in Kṛṣṇa consciousness is so transcendental and so unlimited that no other happiness can compare to it. It is said that even one drop of happiness in Kṛṣṇa consciousness stands beyond comparison with an ocean of happiness derived from any other activity. Thus, any person who has developed even a little quantity of pure devotional service can very easily kick out all the other kinds of happiness derived from religiousness, economic development, sense gratification, and liberation.

There was a great devotee of Lord Caitanya known as Kholāvecā Śrīdhara, who was a very poor man. He was doing a small business selling cups made from the leaves of plantain trees, and his income was almost nothing. Still, he was spending fifty percent of his small income on the worship of the Ganges, and with the other fifty percent he was somehow living. Lord Caitanya once revealed Himself to this confidential devotee, Kholāvecā Śrīdhara, and offered him any opulence he liked. But Śrīdhara informed the Lord that he did not want any material opulence. He was quite happy in his present position and wanted only to gain unflinching faith and devotion unto the lotus feet of Lord Caitanya. That is the position of pure devotees. If they can be engaged twenty-four hours each day in devotional service, they do not want anything else, not even the happiness of liberation or of becoming one with the Supreme.

In the Nārada Pañcarātra it is also said that any person who has developed even a small amount of devotional service doesn’t care a fig for any kind of happiness derived from religiousness, economic development, sense gratification, or the five kinds of liberation. Any kind of happiness derived from religiousness, economic development, liberation, or sense gratification cannot even dare to enter into the heart of a pure devotee. It is stated that as the personal attendants and maidservants of a queen follow the queen with all respect and obeisances, similarly the joys of religiousness, economic development, sense gratification, and liberation follow the devotional service of the Lord. In other words, a pure devotee does not lack any kind of happiness derived from any source. He does not want anything but service to Kṛṣṇa, but even if he should have another desire, the Lord fulfills it without the devotee’s asking.

4. The Rarity of Pure Devotional Service

In the preliminary phase of spiritual life there are different kinds of austerities, penances, and similar processes for attaining self-realization. However, even if an executor of these processes is without any material desire, he still cannot achieve devotional service. And aspiring by oneself alone to achieve devotional service is also not very hopeful, because Kṛṣṇa does not agree to award devotional service to merely anyone. Kṛṣṇa can easily offer a person material happiness or even liberation, but He does not agree very easily to award a person engagement in His devotional service. Devotional service can in fact be attained only through the mercy of a pure devotee. In the Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya 19.151) it is said, “By the mercy of the spiritual master who is a pure devotee and by the mercy of Kṛṣṇa one can achieve the platform of devotional service. There is no other way.”

The rarity of devotional service is also confirmed in the tantra-śāstra, where Lord Śiva says to Satī, “My dear Satī, if one is a very fine philosopher, analyzing the different processes of knowledge, he can achieve liberation from material entanglement. By performance of the ritualistic sacrifices recommended in the Vedas one can be elevated to the platform of pious activities and thereby enjoy the material comforts of life to the fullest extent. But all such endeavors can hardly offer anyone devotional service to the Lord, not even if one tries for it by such processes for many, many thousands of births.”

In the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam Prahlāda Mahārāja confirms that merely by personal efforts or by the instructions of higher authorities one cannot attain to the stage of devotional service. One must become blessed by the dust of the lotus feet of a pure devotee, who is completely freed from the contamination of material desires.

Tasting the Honey of Bhakti

Devotional service is dependent on the mercy of Kṛṣṇa and His devotees. Unless we surrender to the lotus feet of a pure devotee, it is not possible to come to the platform of pure devotional service. By his own efforts a bee cannot taste the honey within a bottle. The bottle must be opened by a superior. If the bee simply licks the outside of the bottle, thinking, “Now I am tasting honey,” then he is in illusion. Similarly, no one can enter into devotional service unless the door is opened by a devotee. Therefore Rūpa Gosvāmī says, ādau gurvāśrayam: The first step in devotional service is to accept a guru from a disciplic succession that follows the principles of bhakti. Then you will very easily enter onto the path of devotional service. You have to select a guru who is niṣkiñcana, “free of material desires.” One who has accepted the lotus feet of the Lord has finished with all material desires. Such a pure devotee wants only to be engaged in the Lord’s service in whatever condition of life he is in.

King Yudhiṣṭhira was such a pure devotee. In the Fifth Canto of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (5.6.18) Nārada says to Yudhiṣṭhira, “My dear king, it is Lord Kṛṣṇa, known as Mukunda, who is the eternal protector of the Pāṇḍavas and the Yadus. He is also your spiritual master and instructor in every respect. He is the only worshipable God for you. He is very dear and affectionate, and He is the director of all your activities, both individual and familial. And what’s more, He sometimes carries out your orders as if He were your messenger! My dear king, how very fortunate you are, because for others all these favors given to you by the Supreme Lord would not even be dreamt of.” The purport to this verse is that the Lord easily offers liberation but He rarely agrees to offer a soul devotional service, because by devotional service the Lord Himself becomes purchased by the devotee.

5. Bhakti Minimizes the Happiness of Becoming One with the Supreme

Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī says that if brahmānanda, or the happiness of becoming one with the Supreme, is multiplied by one trillionfold, it still cannot compare to an atomic fraction of the happiness derived from the ocean of devotional service.

In the Hari-bhakti-sudhodaya Prahlāda Mahārāja, while satisfying Lord Nṛsiṁhadeva with his prayers, says, “My dear Lord of the universe, I am feeling transcendental pleasure in Your presence and have become merged in the ocean of happiness. I now consider the happiness of brahmānanda to be no more than the water in the impression left by a cow’s hoof in the earth, compared to this ocean of bliss.” Similarly, it is confirmed in the Bhāvārtha-dīpikā, Śrīdhara Svāmī’s commentary on the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, “My dear Lord, some of the fortunate persons who are swimming in the ocean of Your nectar of devotion, and who are relishing the nectar of the narration of Your pastimes, certainly know ecstasies that immediately minimize the value of the happiness derived from religiousness, economic development, sense gratification, and liberation. Such a transcendental devotee regards any kind of happiness other than devotional service as no better than straw in the street.”

6. Only Bhakti Can Attract Kṛṣṇa

Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī has stated that devotional service attracts even Kṛṣṇa. Kṛṣṇa attracts everyone, but devotional service attracts Kṛṣṇa. The symbol of devotional service in the highest degree is Rādhārāṇī. Kṛṣṇa is called Madana-mohana, which means that He is so attractive that He can defeat the attraction of thousands of Cupids. But Rādhārāṇī is still more attractive, for She can attract even Kṛṣṇa. Therefore devotees call Her Madana-mohana-mohinī – the attractor of the attractor of Cupid.

Madana means sex attraction. So since Kṛṣṇa is Madana-mohana, one can neglect even sex attraction if one is attracted to Kṛṣṇa. Sex attracts everyone in this material world. Indeed, the whole material world is running on sex, and so-called happiness begins from sexual intercourse. Generally, a man marries to satisfy his sex desire. In that way, he begets children. When the children are grown, they marry and have more children. It is all for the same purpose: sex. Material happiness means these three things: śrī (a beautiful woman), aiśvarya (wealth), and prajā (offspring). Generally, people want a good wife, a good bank balance, and a good family. If a man has these things, he is considered successful.

Through the effort to acquire and maintain a wife, children, friends, and wealth, the attraction for this material world becomes tighter and tighter. We should avoid being attracted by the glitter of this material world and try to become attracted by Kṛṣṇa. In this connection, Śrī Yāmunācārya said,

yad-avadhi mama cetaḥ kṛṣṇa-pādāravinde
nava-nava-rasa-dhāmany udyataṁ rantum āsīt
tad-avadhi bata nārī-saṅgame smaryamāne
bhavati mukha-vikāraḥ suṣṭhu niṣṭhīvanaṁ ca

“Since I have been attracted by the beauty of Kṛṣṇa and have begun to serve His lotus feet, I am experiencing an ever-new taste. Therefore, as soon as I think of sexual intercourse, my lips curl with distaste and I want to spit.” When one is attracted by Kṛṣṇa, Cupid is defeated and one conquers over this material world. Otherwise, the material world is very difficult to surpass. But if anyone grabs Kṛṣṇa’s lotus feet very strongly, calling out, “Kṛṣṇa, save me!” Kṛṣṇa promises, “I will save you. Do not worry.” In the Bhagavad-gītā Kṛṣṇa tells Arjuna, “You can declare to the world, I will protect My pure devotee.” People do not know that their only business is to take shelter of the lotus feet of Kṛṣṇa and thus achieve the aim of human life, which is to get out of the clutches of the material world. Any other business means we are becoming entangled in this material world.

Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī, the Queen of Bhakti

To perform devotional service means to follow in the footsteps of Rādhārāṇī, and devotees in Vṛndāvana put themselves under the care of Rādhārāṇī in order to achieve perfection in their devotional service. In other words, devotional service is not an activity of the material world; it is directly under the control of Rādhārāṇī. In the Bhagavad-gītā it is confirmed that the mahātmās, or great souls, are under the protection of daivī prakṛti, the internal energy – Rādhārāṇī. So, being directly under the control of the internal potency of Kṛṣṇa, devotional service attracts even Kṛṣṇa Himself.

This fact is corroborated by Kṛṣṇa in the Eleventh Canto of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (11.14.20), where He says, “My dear Uddhava, you may know it from Me that the attraction I feel for devotional service rendered by My devotees is not to be attained even by the performance of mystic yoga, philosophical speculation, ritualistic sacrifices, the study of Vedānta, the practice of severe austerities, or the giving of everything in charity. These are, of course, very nice activities, but they are not as attractive to Me as the transcendental loving service rendered by My devotees.”

How Kṛṣṇa becomes attracted by the devotional service of His devotees is described by Nārada Muni in the Seventh Canto of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (7.10.48–49). There Nārada addresses King Yudhiṣṭhira while the king is appreciating the glories of the character of Prahlāda Mahārāja. A devotee always appreciates the activities of other devotees. Yudhiṣṭhira Mahārāja was appreciating the qualities of Prahlāda, and that appreciation is one symptom of a pure devotee. A pure devotee never thinks himself great; he always thinks that other devotees are greater than himself. The king was thinking, “Prahlāda Mahārāja is actually a devotee of the Lord, while I am nothing,” and while thinking this he was addressed by Nārada as follows: “My dear King Yudhiṣṭhira, you [the Pāṇḍava brothers] are the only fortunate people in this world. The Supreme Personality of Godhead has appeared on this planet and is presenting Himself to you as an ordinary human being. He is always with you in all circumstances. He is living with you and covering Himself from the eyes of others. Others cannot understand that He is the Supreme Lord, but He is still living with you as your cousin, as your friend, and even as your messenger. Therefore you must know that nobody in this world is more fortunate than you.”

In the Bhagavad-gītā, when Kṛṣṇa appeared in His universal form Arjuna prayed, “My dear Kṛṣṇa, I thought of You as my cousin-brother, and so I have shown disrespect to You in so many ways, calling You ‘Kṛṣṇa’ or ‘friend.’ But You are so great that I could not understand.” So that was the position of the Pāṇḍavas: although Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the greatest among all greats, He remained with those royal brothers, being attracted by their devotion, by their friendship, and by their love. That is the proof of how great this process of devotional service is. It can attract even the Supreme Personality of Godhead. God is great, but devotional service is greater than God because it attracts Him. People who are not in devotional service can never understand what great value there is in rendering service to the Lord.

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